It’s really important that we talk more about failures in social media if we’re ever going to shine true, tangible light on what’s working and what’s not. I know there are lots of you out there that agree. But there’s an important distinction to be made.
When we reference social media failures, we often focus on debacles. Big reputation crises or massive failures in execution that became public and widespread examples of what not to do. But failure is NOT always synonymous with crisis. Failure, in the simplest terms, can be as straightforward as falling short of a goal. And failure is not always disastrous.
When we’re planning social media initiatives, we have to be thinking of two important things. First, what does success look like, and how do we know when we’ve crossed the line to say “we succeeded”? This is part of solid goal setting. If the goal is clear, so too is success criteria.
What we often forget, however, is to do the same thing for failure. When will we say we fell short? Is not reaching our goal considered “failure”, or is failure if we miss that goal by, say, more than 10%? Is failure in our eyes only when our results are catastrophic? And most importantly of all, what will we endeavor to learn from our achievements either way?
I want us, as a community, to stop looking at failure and crisis the same way. When we gather our teams around tables to talk about social media implementation, we should be asking ourselves:
- If we fear crisis or disaster, what’s the worst case scenario we can imagine for our specific situation and company? If it happens, how will we respond? Thinking through the worst and crafting a plan can often make crisis seem less scary.
- Is the “failure” scenario we’re imagining truly a tangible risk for our company in terms of financial or operational loss, a reputation or brand damage issue, or is it merely a situation we’re not comfortable facing? There’s a big difference between these types of situations.
- If we fall short of our goal, what kind of failure criteria means that we won’t attempt this again or will shelve the concept altogether, versus the type that allows for adjustment in strategy and another try?
Lastly, be sure and determine what failure looks like from all impact angles. If an effort achieves the reach you want but fails to accomplish an articulated customer service goal, which pieces will you adjust, and who from your team will you involve?
I’d like for some brave companies to step up and help folks see some of their social media failures and what they learned from them, especially if they readjusted and found success later. Both strategically, and tactically. If you’ve got stories like that, won’t you point us to them in the comments?
Crisis and failure are not the same thing. Both require forethought and scenario planning, but they need to be looked at very differently and methodically. Both can be important guideposts for how social evolves in your organization.
So, what say you?